Magazine article Dance Magazine

Cholly Atkins

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Cholly Atkins

Article excerpt

Cholly Atkins, 89, a legendary tap dancer and choreographer for Motown Records, died April 19, 2003, in Las Vegas, where he lived.

In his youth, Atkins worked as a Cotton Club chores tapper, in an act with his first wife Dotty Saulter, and as a freelance dancer-choreographer, performing at New York's Apollo Theater, on Broadway, and in films. After a World War II Army stint, he formed a long-running act with tapper Honi Coles.

Atkins remained active even during the "Great Tap Drought," as it was known in the hoofing community, of the 1950s-1960s. As a freelancer, he worked with Katherine Dunham, Milton Berle, Ethel Merman, Gary Moore, Redd Foxx, Sammy Davis Jr., and Stevie Wonder. But he also suffered many indignities; the show stopping "Mamie Is Mimi" number he and Coles choreographed for the 1949 Broadway show Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was widely credited to Agnes de Mille. And Motown producer Berry Gordy failed to credit Atkins for creating routines for Motown recording artists The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, and Gladys Knight and the Pips. …

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